CERN designs a mould for mass production of face shields


An open hardware CERN design is helping people with hearing loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Face shields against COVID 19 manufactured at CERN with the "CERN against COVID 19" logo. (Image: CERN)

A successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic needs to account for pre-existing health conditions and impairments. For instance, people with hearing loss cannot lip-read or interpret the facial expressions of someone wearing a mask. In this case, transparent face shields are a solution. As a result, 40 face shields based on a CERN design have now been distributed at a school in the Modena region in northern Italy, to support teachers and pupils with hearing loss.

At the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, CERN's needs in terms of personal protective equipment were significant, which prompted the Organization to start manufacturing not only masks but also face shields in its workshops. These face shields were designed and optimised by the CERN against COVID-19 task force.

I was impressed by the benevolence of my colleagues. This undertaking brought the whole CERN community together – from engineers to administrative and transport staff – around the idea of doing something good.

Salvatore Buontempo, a member of the CMS experiment from INFN Naples and a volunteer in the CERN against COVID-19 task force.

From handcrafting on the CERN premises, the process moved to the industrial stage, when the teams decided to develop and build a mould for the shield’s complex plastic parts. This increased production from a few dozen units to nearly three thousand a day. The shape of these parts was slightly modified to comply with French norms for COVID-19 safety equipment.

“The mould is a relatively sophisticated mechanical component,” explains Diego Perini, head of the Mechanical and Materials Engineering design office. “It is made of several mobile parts that close together to define the injection cavity and open to extract the injected piece once cold. It combines precision of movement, reproducibility and stability to ensure constant dimensions of the manufactured parts. It must also be able to withstand millions of thermo-mechanical cycles without deterioration of its properties.”

CORPLAST, located in Correggio, near Modena, is the manufacturer of the mould. The company, which is specialised in complex plastic moulding, particularly for the automotive sector, received authorisation from CERN to use the mould to manufacture face shields at its own expense and has since distributed about 1300 of them among local schools.

The face shield and mould designs have been published using the CERN Open Hardware Licence (OHL). In total, more than 25 000 face shields have been manufactured by CORPLAST for use at CERN. A number of them have been donated to CERN partners in Lebanon, Brazil, Mexico, India and Pakistan.